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A Trio of New Poems by Langston Hughes

The Voice of the Black American Poet Laureate as a Young Man


Langston Hughes in 1940
MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Langston Hughes’ birthday is, fittingly, the first day of February, Black History Month, and in 2009 the celebration was marked by the publication of three never-before-known and newly rediscovered Hughes poems, found scribbled in the flyleaves of a book from his personal library:

from Weekend America (PBS radio show):
New Langston Hughes Poems Discovered,” by Larissa Anderson
“It’s Langston Hughes’s birthday this weekend, and people across the country are celebrating one of America’s most beloved poets with poetry performances and other events. Poetry magazine has given Langston Hughes fans even more reason to celebrate. This month’s issue features three previously unpublished Langston Hughes poems, written in 1930.”

Poetry magazine’s January 2009 edition featured the new poems, with comments by Hughes’ biographer Arnold Rampersad and a note on their discovery:

“The three poems were written in pencil on the endpapers of Langston Hughes’s edition of An Anthology of Revolutionary Poetry (Active Press, 1929). They were discovered by Penny Welbourne, a rare book cataloger at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, where the Hughes papers are housed. This is their first known publication.”

Minor works, perhaps, certainly brief and simple in language and form, but the newly discovered poems are especially resonant now, 78 years after they were written, when American society is experiencing parallel economic hardship and upheaval, and yet, and yet, the man we have elected to lead us out of the morass is a black man. Here then, are the poems:

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